THE KICKIS GOOD

Joplin kicker Garrett Landis watches as his extra point attempt sails through the uprights. Landis became Joplin’s leading scorer in history for kickers during the Eagles’ game against Neosho on Friday night at Junge Stadium. Globe | Laurie SIsk

Class 6 fourth-ranked Joplin has had several highs and lows in the midst of its undefeated season through six weeks.

On Friday, in a 56-21 win against Neosho at Junge Field, Garrett Landis accomplished one of the many high points in 2019.

Landis, a senior kicker for the Eagles, etched his name in the history books as the school’s all-time leading scorer at the position when he converted the extra-point try on the team’s sixth touchdown of the game to give him 179 career points, surpassing Parkwood’s Alan Cockrell’s mark of 178 from 1978-80.

“With all of the work that I have put in, it is pretty rewarding to know that it didn’t go to waste,” Landis said. “Now, I’ll be remembered, so that is pretty cool.”

Landis tied Cockrell’s record of 178 points with seven minutes left in the first half, converting a PAT following Blake Tash’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Trayshawn Thomas to make the score 35-7.

“After the kick to tie the record, someone came up to me on the sideline and told me I tied (Alan Cockrell),” Landis said. “I didn’t know I was that close during the game until I was told. So, when I was up and getting ready to kick the PAT to break the record, there were a lot of nerves. Even though it was a PAT and it should be automatic, it was still pretty nerve wracking.”

Landis’ record-setting kick came nearly two minutes of game action later after running back Isaiah Davis scored from 26 yards out with 4:53 left to make the score 42-7.

How did Landis react when he saw the kick split the uprights?

“I really just couldn’t just stop smiling,” Landis said. “I have never felt anything like it, to have an entire crowd cheer for me and my accomplishment. It just made it all worth it.”

Heading into his freshman year, Landis was planning to focus on playing soccer until he was approached just before the football season about the possibility of kicking for the Eagles. He was definitely interested. When he committed, Landis wanted to be the best kicker possible, for himself and his teammates.

“I was playing both soccer and football my freshman year, and I thought football would be a lot like soccer, but it wasn’t,” Landis said with a laugh. “I had never played football before, I watched it, but I really got into it my freshman year. I started going to camps, traveling all over the place and working really hard.”

That hard work continues midway through his senior season.

“Before I get time at our practice, I’ll go to Junge and kick for an hour,” Landis said about his practice routine. “On the weekends, I’ll come in on a Saturday or Sunday, and in the summer, I try to kick at least once or twice a week.”

The results speak for themselves.

In his career leading up to this season, Landis had converted 90 percent of his extra-point tries, while adding four made field goals. In his freshman season, he was 30-of-35 and made his only field-goal attempt for 33 total points. He accumulated 46 points his sophomore season after converting 37-of-41 kicks with three field goals. Last season, as an instrumental part of Joplin’s historical run to a 10-3 record and a trip to the state semifinals, Landis was 67-of-71 on PATs.

Landis is saving his best for last, having converted 36-of-37 PATs through six games.

“He has been great from his freshman year, when we called him ‘baby legs’, to what you see now,” Joplin coach Curtis Jasper said after his team’s win over Neosho. “You see the way he works so hard every day at his craft, and there is nothing baby about. I am extremely happy for him. One of the things you hope the kids in your football program get out of it is, if you work hard, good things will happen and you will produce results. I feel like Garrett is a great example of that.”

Of course, Landis was quick to point out that while he works as hard as he can to be the best at what he does, a lot of his success is due in large part to his teammates.

Aside from Joplin’s prolific scoring, particularly over the past two and a half seasons, his record-setting career wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of the special teams unit.

“The whole unit matters, really,” Landis said. “If the blockers don’t do their job, the kicked will get blocked. If the snap is bad, they (opposing defense) has more time to get to the kick, and the hold means everything. If it is tilted slightly towards me, it will hook left. If it is really far back, the point on the ball I have to hit is decreased. It has to be a perfect snap, hold, block and kick for everything to go right.

“We have a lot of guys doing their part. I just want to go out there and do mine.”

One of those guys doing their part on each kick is Landis’ holder for the last three seasons, Isaiah Davis. While Davis is a standout running back and linebacker, he literally holds the key to Landis’ success on each kick.

“Obviously, Isaiah can do it all,” Landis said. “He is a great running back and linebacker, so I expect him to be great at special teams, as well. He works hard on everything he does.”

Does Davis know how important his holds are to Landis?

“He definitely knows,” Landis laughed. “If it’s a bad hold, I’ll let him know.”

Landis currently sits with 182 points in his career, a number that will certainly keep climbing down the stretch of his final season with the Eagles. And though this personal record means a lot to him, he admitted that helping his team get a chance to play for a state title is the ultimate goal.

“That would be something that is pretty special,” Landis said. “We haven’t had one of those in a while. That’s the ultimate goal. We look at it game by game. If we get that chance, it will be amazing.

“With everything that we have been through, I really feel like this team is my second family. They are my brothers. I fight for them, and they fight for me.

“I just think of it as, ‘I’m trying to do something special with my team that I can tell my future children about and have them look up to all of us.”

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